Friday Recap from U.S. Women's Open

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

During the second round.

Not even a heavy fog could stop Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park from inching closer to her third straight major title in Friday’s second round of the U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA. Park fired a 4-under 68 and held the second-round lead at 9-under-par 135 at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. when play was suspended for the day at 6:40 p.m. ET due to heavy fog in the area.

One day after Park called the USGA “generous” for the conditions they created in round one of this week’s major championship, the 156 players in the field got a glimpse at how much more difficult Sebonack Golf Club can be when the winds pick up and the pins get tucked on the course’s tricky greens.

The wind blew steady around 15 mph for most of the day with gusts reaching 30 mph. By early evening the conditions grew worse as heavy fog moved over the course along Peconic Bay in eastern Long Island. By the time play was called for the day, only 10 players remained under par for the tournament. A total of 40 players remained on the course when play was halted due to fog and second-round play is scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. EDT on Saturday morning. Round 3 will begin at approximately 10:30 a.m. Saturday with players starting in groups of three from the first and 10th tees.

Park’s group was on the 18th hole when the fog delay was put into place. Players had the opportunity to either finish their current hole or wait until Saturday morning. Park and her playing partners, Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen, continued on the par-5 18th and in true No. 1 fashion, the 24-year-old South Korean finished her impressive round with a flourish in spite of the fog by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt to complete her round of 68.

“I think we got very lucky that we finished today,” said Park, who added that the fog made it a little harder to see on her final hole. “I played very good golf today. I gave myself a lot of good opportunities, a very good ball striking day. The long putts seemed to be going well today. I left a couple out there, but very satisfied with today's score.”

Park, who won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Wegmans LPGA Championship earlier this year, is trying to become only the second player in LPGA history to win the first three majors in a season. Babe Zaharias accomplished the feat in 1950 when she won all three majors played that year – the Titleholders Championship, the Women’s Western Open and the U.S. Women’s Open.

Someone who could be standing in Park’s way of accomplishing that feat is fellow South Korean I.K. Kim, who sits two shots back at 7-under. Kim is a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour and certainly has the type of game to win a major championship on a golf course like this.

“I came a long way the last two days, I guess,” Kim said after her round. “When you start U.S. Open, you can't really tell what score that you are going to have. I think that kind of helps me too. I don't really think of the score too much. That is going to drive you nuts, I think, if you are going to think about numbers even on any golf course.”
Numbers are what has seemed to set Park apart from the rest of the LPGA over the past year. In her last 23 events, Park has won seven times and finished runner-up five times. So in more than half of the events she’s played over that span, she’s finished first or second.

That’s why it comes as no surprise to those who have followed the LPGA Tour closely that Park once again finds herself at the top of the leaderboard. However, leading after 36 holes is a slightly less common occurrence for Park who has only done it three times over the past year with one of those times coming in her victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April.

After Thursday’s first round, Kim lauded the way that her long-time friend has been able to deliver such a dominant performance on the LPGA Tour over the past year.

“I'm very proud of her,” Kim said of Park. “I've known her since we were little children, and she's a good player. She's a great player and such a great putter. I admire her with her putting and everything. She's so calm. I think she has a lot of qualities to be number 1 player.

“Everybody's different. We've seen many good champions over the years, and I think she's one of the better ones. I think that's why she's been winning so many tournaments. I mean, if she doesn't win, she finishes very close.”

Kim herself has been a consistent presence near the top of the leaderboard at major championships, particularly when it comes to the U.S. Women’s Open. She has a total of four top-10 finishes at this event, including three straight top-4 finishes from 2008-2010. But this marks the first time that she’s ever led the U.S. Women’s Open at the completion of a round.

American Lizette Salas sits in a tie for third at 4-under-par with Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who had her round halted when she was through her 15th hole of the day. Salas is in the clubhouse with the score after shooting an even-par 72 in the second round.

Saginaw, Texas native Angela Stanford used Friday’s second round to put herself in contention to capture her first major championship victory. Stanford tied Park for the low round of the day with her 4-under 68. The great round by the 35-year-old moved her up 32 spots on the leaderboard, from T37 to now T5 with fellow American Jessica Korda at 3-under-par.

A few other players were able to make a move up the leaderboard on Friday, including 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu. The South Korean, who turns 23 on Saturday, shot a 3-under 69 and currently sits in a tie for eighth at 2-under-par. First-round leader and KLPGA member Ha-Neul Kim fell off the pace slightly after shooting a 5-over 77 in Friday’s second round. She now sits in a tie for ninth at 1-under-par.

There’s Something About Majors: I.K. Kim is slight in stature and soft-spoken by nature but there is no question that when it comes to her performance at major championships, the 5-foot-3 South Korean packs a major punch. Although Kim is still seeking her first major victory, she seems to always be in contention when the big events roll around.

In her last 13 majors played, Kim has six top-10 finishes which includes a runner-up at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her record is even more impressive at the U.S. Women’s Open where she finished T3 in 2008, T3 in 2009, T4 in 2010 and T10 in 2011. Despite missing the cut at last year’s event at Blackwolf Run, Kim acknowledges that there is something about this championship that seems to suit her game.

“Everybody has ups and downs,” Kim said. “Definitely finishing top 5 in the U.S. Open is not a bad place, you know. But definitely, there's times that I was disappointed. But I just have a faith, you know, if you do your best and everything is going to be okay.

“And I think especially playing USGA tournaments I've just learned so much. I want to thank the USGA and LPGA Tour for making me a better golfer. And competing with so many great players out here, I feel like I'm fortunate to compete against them and keep growing not only as a golfer but as a human being.”

Kim certainly has had her share of disappointments at majors as well. While many remember Kim for missing a one-foot putt on the 72nd hole of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship that would have won her the tournament, those who know Kim believe it has only made her a better golfer.

“She had her tough time two years ago at the Nabisco, but I think she handled herself very good in a very positive way,” said Inbee Park of Kim. “She came back very strong, and she's a very consistent player. Yeah, I mean, I watched her playing yesterday on TV and she was playing very solid. I'm looking forward to playing with her.”

Lost and Found: Lizette Salas looked panicked as she ran back toward the 18th green after the completion of her round on Friday afternoon. What was causing Salas, who had shot an even-par 72 in the second round, to feel so flustered?

In the process of walking to the scoring tent, Salas had lost the scorecard on which she was keeping the score of her playing partner, Angela Stanford. As quickly looked through her golf bag for it, Salas was approached by a USGA official who delivered the missing card that a fan had picked up near the 18th green. And there appeared to be a sigh of relief for the 23-year-old’s face.

“I have never lost my scorecard,” Salas said. “I don't know how that happened. It just kind of flew away. I blame the wind for losing my scorecard.”

While the wind caused a slight panic moment for Salas, it didn’t derail her major championship hopes on Friday. After shooting 72, Salas finds herself in a tie for third at 4-under-par and only four shots back of leader, Inbee Park. Having already experienced the feeling of playing in the final group of a major championship at the Kraft Nabisco Championship this year, Salas continues to learn what it takes to be in contention in these big events.

“You just had to take your medicine and really try to take advantage of the par 5s,” Salas said of her round on Friday. “And I got into some trouble and had to get up and down on par 5s. In that sense I felt like I didn't complete my goal or didn't accomplish my goal, but I still hit really good shots out there. I'm just saving my putts for the weekend.”

Another chance? It’s been 10 years since Angela Stanford lost in a three-way, 18-hole playoff to Hilary Lunke at the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. The now 35-year-old Texan has put herself in contention at a few majors since that fateful day but she is still seeking that first major victory.

As the years have gone on since her near-miss at the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open, has Stanford’s desire to win a major only intensified?

“Well I’m still waiting,” Stanford said. “But my answer to this question hasn’t changed. I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity and that experience. But I’m also very fortunate that I’m still playing and still competing at U.S. Opens. Obviously, I’d love to have that trophy and I’m very blessed with where I am now. I know my time’s coming; I just don’t know when.”

Stanford has never hidden her strong desire to get that elusive major title. She’s made changes in recent year to help her on that quest. For one, she rehired Dan Chapman as her caddie who she says has been helpful with his positive nature, stemming the tide of her ability to get very negative at times during a round. She said that Chapman has also helped her to realize it’s actually good to just accept the fact that she hasn’t won a major yet.

“I think there is a level of peace right now and it's different,” Stanford said. “ I'm not as mad as I usually am. I have a lot of great things to be thankful for, so I'm trying to enjoy this week, and I'm trying to enjoy the scenery. I'm trying to accept things a little bit better.”

Topics: US Women's Open

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